ASK THE EXPERTS

What helps with sluggish digestion?

Man holding his stomach after eating

Dietitian, author and nutrition commentator Jamie Rose Chambers takes a look at what’s behind sluggish digestion and what can help.

Q Why is my digestive system so sluggish? Eating foods with more fibre only seems to make it worse. What can I do to get things ‘moving along‘?

Julia K, via email

A Our digestive systems can be sluggish for many reasons. Fibre can help create healthy stools and move our bowels, but if you’re a little dehydrated and not drinking enough fluid, fibre can make the symptoms worse.

The basics for healthy bowel function are fibre, fluid and movement. My advice would be to first check how much fibre you’re including in your diet. The goal is 30g for men and woman. You can use a fibre counter online, or an app, to check how much you’re consuming. Otherwise, seek the advice of a dietitian to support you with this.

If you need to increase your fibre intake, do it slowly over several weeks to give your gut time to adjust. Secondly, make sure you’re getting enough fluid. There’s no magic number: aim for at least 2 litres (or 8 cups) per day. Ultimately, your urine should be a light straw colour.

Lastly, get active every day. It helps move your bowels, and it’s great for countering stress, which can contribute to sluggish bowels too. Let’s go!

First published: Jul 2021

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